White supremacist Rep. Steve King’s 18-year career in the House came to an inglorious end on Tuesday after he lost the Republican primary to state Sen. Randy Feenstra in western Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. With 95% of precincts reporting (78,000 votes), Feenstra led by a wide 46-36.
King’s downfall came over a year after House GOP leaders voted to strip him of his committee assignments after he defended white supremacy in an instantly notorious interview with the New York Times. King, who had been a weak fundraiser for years, immediately rendered himself toxic to influential donors, allowing Feenstra to outspend him decisively. Third-party groups, including the deep-pocketed U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also spent heavily on ads portraying King as ineffective and unable to help Donald Trump without his committee posts.
King also became known in Congress for his far-right rhetoric, especially on immigration. In 2010, for example, he said that law enforcement officials could identify undocumented immigrants based on “[w]hat kind of clothes people wear … what kind of shoes people wear, what kind of accent they have … sometimes it’s just a sixth sense they can’t put their finger on.”
Three years later, he attacked students hoping to become American citizens by spewing, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Democrats ran credible campaigns against King in both 2012 and 2014, but the incumbent decisively won both times. In 2016, King also turned back a primary challenge from state Sen. Rick Bertrand 65-35, a result that made him look all the more secure in his western Iowa constituency.
But King’s behavior grew even worse during the Trump era. Weeks before the 2018 election, voters learned that their congressman was rubbing shoulders with international white supremacist candidates and hate groups. This included an August meeting with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party—which has historical ties to the Nazi Party and more modern ones to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s party—that King took during a trip to eastern Europe. Gallingly, that junket was paid for by a Holocaust memorial group.
During this same trip, King also gave an interview to a website allied with the Freedom Party where he asked what diversity brings to America “that we don’t have that is worth the price?” adding, “We have a lot of diversity within the U.S. already.” King used that same interview to call Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros a force behind the so-called “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory prevalent on the far-right that white Europeans are being deliberately “replaced” by people of color in a scheme fomented by Jews.
Can’t say I am super confident they will repeat this in November with President White Supremacist. More likely is that King gets a job in the administration.